Opinion Piece: An unprecedented time in Durban, KZN and South Africa…where do we go from here?

Back at work after a week’s leave when a few days in the bush turned into a need to stay at home as our province KZN and our city of Durban erupted into violence, mayhem and looting. Today I am hoping the situation will remain calm as thankfully it has been the last few days. There is a huge aftermath now of clearing up, re-establishing supply chains, rebuilding and restoring hope in our community again. Much good analysis has been done of the situation, in an effort to understand why — one good synopsis was in last week’s edition of The Conversation; another, so poignant, was the article in Daily Maverick, on ‘fighting to stay alive in a broken country’. It is the reflection of a homeless man in Johannesburg reminding us of the real challenge of reconstruction — to fix the fault lines of inequality and exclusion whether because of race, class or nationality. Even if the looting and destruction are over, he points out, in truth, the problems are longstanding. The first step is to clear up the mess and there has been an extraordinary outpouring of generosity from across all communities with people volunteering to clear and sweep up the looted areas. We are hearing many good news stories about communities coming together to help each other. But it is important that we are not only helping within our communities but also between communities, with a vision of a city, as held by the Denis Hurley Centre, in which we all prosper together.

The chasms of inequality and by and large a failing education system, are major obstacles we need to fix in our South Africa of today. The capitalist system as we know it needs to be reformed to be more inclusive with radical paradigm shifts. One I have always thought relevant (it certainly was for Ricardo Semler of Brazilian company Semco fame, and author of the book Maverick) is for companies to make employees shareholders such that if the company does well, the employees do well. There is incentive for hard, honest work, with consequent reward and a chance for self-improvement if the organisation is successful. With more money to go around, education systems have a better chance of being ‘fixed’ as school fees are paid, institutions are kept in better repair, teachers enjoy their jobs and learners are turned out with an education that is worth the certificate they get when they finish school.

As always, we believe we have a methodology that would address this situation, with equity and local economy being one of the ten One Planet principles to enable companies to start thinking about radical change. Using the ten principles to create an action plan for your company, in an effort to begin to address the hard questions that any change will bring. And at this time in our history, I cannot think of any other more relevant way to do this. One Planet Living also addresses that other catastrophic ‘elephant in the room’ event, that of climate change, and the need for ‘rewilding’ of the world to restore our biodiversity, as David Attenborough calls for, to avert the climate calamity that the whole world faces, not just us in Africa.

Somehow the events of the last week have felt like a ‘déjà vu’ of what our planet in climate crisis, might feel like — but proactive citizen action, as also demonstrated in the ongoing repairs of last week’s damages, can similarly make a big difference in instituting positive systems change.

A big system to repair, the inequality gap in our country South Africa — but the time is now, an opportunity in crisis, to fix most immediately in our own backyard. We challenge companies in Durban to sign up to One Planet Living to create meaningful action plans for changes such as greater equity in our business systems, and the beginnings of a better life for the majority. Like the DHC, we too, believe in Durban, and would like to work with those who share in this ethos, to build back better, for the good of all.


Part of the ‘One Planet Cities’ project, funded by KR Foundation, with five cities piloting an online platform to make sustainability action planning easy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
One Planet Cities Durban

Part of the ‘One Planet Cities’ project, funded by KR Foundation, with five cities piloting an online platform to make sustainability action planning easy.